KUALA LUMPUR: Faced with mounting headwinds, Bursa Malaysia succumbed to selling pressure yesterday as foreign selling continued following the possibility that the United States will taper its bond-buying programme ahead of schedule.
With investor concerns already heightened by the discovery of another Covid-19 strain, the remarks by US Federal Reserve (Fed) chair Jerome Powell before the Senate Banking Committee caught investors by surprise, triggering selling in equities markets.
At Tuesday’s close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 had fallen 1.9% apiece, backing further away from recent record closing levels.
Bursa Malaysia tracked the negative performance yesterday, with investors selling down 680 counters compared with buying up in just 293.
The FBM KLCI was also sharply lower, ending 17.05 points or 1.1% down to 1,496.93 at yesterday’s close.
Speaking with StarBiz, an analyst with a locally based foreign bank said investors are faced with a scenario reminiscent of the taper tantrum faced in May 2013.
“We have been pricing in for a gradual taper and expected it to be completed by June 2022. However, the stubborn inflationary pressure shifted the Fed’s inclination to a quicker taper and a possibility of more hikes next year,” he said.
He added that the Fed could now be expected to implement as many as three interest rate hikes in 2022 compared with the previous forecast of one.
Investors were seen moving out of riskier assets and into long-term Treasuries, leading to a 6.1bps drop in the 10-year Treasury yield on Tuesday and a flatter yield curve, which according to economists, indicates a slowing growth outlook.
Concomitantly, expectations of a continued uptrend in the US dollar could have contributed to further outflow from the local market, said the analyst.
Buying interest in the safe-haven greenback had grown in recent weeks amid expectations of a more hawkish Fed stance and as investors took caution over a possible fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At press time, the greenback was 0.4% stronger against the ringgit at 4.218.
“The rate divergence between the US Fed and Bank Negara has exacerbated the outflow. More positive data is needed to turn the FBM KLCI around.
“Corporates earnings have not been impressive and this does not attract foreign investors,” he added.
On Bursa Malaysia, the Finance Services Index retreated 0.7% to 14,928.36.
Of the leading banks, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, which was also weighed down by a recent earnings result, recorded the sharpest decline of 15 sen to RM5.03.
In other sectors, notable laggards on the FBM KLCI included Maxis Bhd down 23 sen to RM4.45, Axiata Group Bhd falling nine sen to RM3.81 and PPB Group Bhd sliding 76 sen to RM17.06.
Meanwhile glove counters continued to pare their gains as experts suggest that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus would be less deadly than its predecessors given the high level of global vaccination.